Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Ethan Michaeli  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: , in New York

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Illinois Connection

Michaeli is based out of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Ethan Michaeli is a publisher and journalist based in Chicago. He was a copy editor and investigative reporter at The Chicago Daily Defender from 1991 to 1996. He left The Defender to found the Resident's Journal, a magazine written and produced by the tenants of Chicago's public housing developments, and an affiliated not-for-profit organization, We The People Media. Resident's Journal/We The People Media won national awards for its journalism and for its programs training youths and adults in the skills of modern journalism, including the 2006 Studs Terkel Award for its investigative reporting.

Michaeli served as a member of the part-time journalism faculty at Columbia College Chicago from 1995-2002, and currently teaches a course on "Race, Politics and Media in the 20th Century" at the Harris School of Public Policy of the University of Chicago. He has served as a judge in prestigious literary contests including the 2018 Lynton Prize and the 2017 Chicago Writers Association.

In addition to The Defender, Ethan's work has been published by Oxford University Press, Atlantic Magazine, the Nation, the Forward, In These Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other venues.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America
ISBN: 0547560699

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016

“An extraordinary history…Deeply researched, elegantly written…a towering achievement that will not be soon forgotten.”Brent Staples, New York Times Book Review

The New York Times Book Review • The Washington Post • Amazon

Giving voice to the voiceless, the Chicago Defender condemned Jim Crow, catalyzed the Great Migration, and focused the electoral power of black America. Robert S. Abbott founded The Defender in 1905, smuggled hundreds of thousands of copies into the most isolated communities in the segregated South, and was dubbed a "Modern Moses," becoming one of the first black millionaires in the process. His successor wielded the newspaper’s clout to elect mayors and presidents, including Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy, who would have lost in 1960 if not for TheDefender’s support. Along the way, its pages were filled with columns by legends like Ida B. Wells, Langston Hughes, and Martin Luther King.

Drawing on dozens of interviews and extensive archival research, Ethan Michaeli constructs a revelatory narrative of race in America and brings to life the reporters who braved lynch mobs and policemen’s clubs to do their jobs, from the age of Teddy Roosevelt to the age of Barack Obama.


  • Best Non Fiction of 2016 prizes from the Midland Authors Association, Chicago Writers Association, Notable Book of 2016 by The New York Times, the Washington Post and Amazon, and to the short list of the Mark Lynton Prize presented by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University., The Defender

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability (No)